Productivity series part One: Nootropics

Nootropics–also called smart drugs and cognitive enhancers—are drugs, supplements, or other substances or treatments that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation.

These are often used to improve productivity and thus unlike other “drug use” are then not used solely for recreational purposes.


I have become impatient with my below average performance in certain mental axes.
Therefore I have begun to experiment on my reactions to certain commonly available nootropics.

I have previously avoided almost all drugs and stimulants; not even drinking coffee or tea.

So far the Nootropics which I have access to are:


Nicotine (4mg)

The Nootropics which are legal to import or purchase in this country are limited in scope, I have the intention to acquire a certificate of permission to import more exotic Nootropic means (tDCS is not yet regulated) for research purposes from the local policing entity.

Results at present.

anodal stimulation over the left DLPFC with cathodal stimulation
over the right supra-orbital area
at maximum power of the device linked above Improved ability to focus for long enough to resolve a Yak Shaving I needed to do for my project, but also resulted in burning a hole through the skin on my forehead(!)
Prior experiments at lower settings were promising, in terms of additional time I could spend focusing, but these “productive periods” didn’t yield tangible results.

100mg Caffeine + 4mg Nicotine (gum) taken at 10:00 am while at work:
Noticeably more productive throughout workday, impressing colleagues.
Managed to make substantial progress on programming tutorial in Java (I’ve been trying, infrequently, to learn programming, anything, since 2010)

Continued dosage of 4mg Nicotine once per seven day period + A single 100mg Caffeine Pill on mornings when I feel tired for a duration of three weeks:
I ended up winning ‘Employee of the week’ award three weeks running, it’s a small company.
On third dose of nicotine, I chew the gum too vigorously, and end up having to throw up; apparently the digestive system considers it a poison.
Felt fine, if a little shaken, after throwing up and am productive that day, if less than previous dosage days.
Completed stage in the Java Programming tutorial during the third week. (results is I can see my code doing things).

Please respond with your own Nootropics experiences and anecdotes/advice

I will edit this post as I find time.


tDCS - you need to keep the current below 80uA per sq cm
Caffeine - take it with twice as much L-Theanine (100mg + 200mg)
Piracetam - 800mg twice a day. If you are like me you won’t feel much at all, but likely your game scores etc will be boosted. In general it’s very safe, but check it out on places like Longecity
Modafinil - You will really feel this one. Start by taking a small quantity eg 25mg or 50mg and beware of any side effects, especially skin rash or problem. A “normal” dose is 100mg.
In some ways Modafinil is really king of the nootropics right now. Not spectacular, but after a while you tend to notice that on days you take it everything seems to go extra well.

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tDCS - 7:50 in

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Thanks for starting your productivity series, @FourFire! And thanks for your compact, yet enlightening replies, @dirk.bruere! :grinning: It would be great, if @BernhardSchrenk also made some contribution to this interesting topic.

Now to my own stance. Nootropics are certainly an interesting option, but focusing on nootropics alone won’t make you transhuman any time soon. What is required for optimal performance is optimizing your general health. Doing reasonable stuff like exercise, good diet (unprocessed foods, low carb, good fats), enough sleep, meditation, having a good basic supplement stack (vitamins C, D, etc.). A lot of the problems one wants to fix with nootropics can already be fixed by getting basic health stuff in order.

Once basic good health is in place, performance can be enhanced with nootropics further. It’s not very effective to throw relatively expensive nootropics at your problems, when they can be solved with much cheaper supplements or some modest lifestyle changes. One interesting approach is to combat negative effects of stress with adaptogenic herbs like ashwaganda or ginkgo. Their effect is not huge, but taking them is still a pretty good idea.


I do all of that already, except the healthy eating part.
Anyway, things like Piracetam have other potentially beneficial effects beyond IQ boost.
And 100mg of Modafinil costs around $0.50
It’s only the more exotic nootropics that are expensive

Though I don’t specifically target a low carb diet, I believe I have no major nutritional deficiencies, and for the time being, though I do not dedicate time to exercise, I find myself passably physically healthy.
At this stage, I am pursuing the lowest cost, highest effect means of productivity enhancement I can think of; the “health foods” industry is a big business in countries like this one and most supplements have large amounts of misinformation attached.
I am wary of spending effective time gains from nootropics by resorting to large “stacks” of this that and the other supplement and measuring my food and so on, I’d prefer to just administer two or three of the highest impact nootropics, and miss out on the fine tuning optimization which also requires a large amount of micromanagement overhead.
That said, I am still open to all suggestions.


It may be not exactly on topic, but since I’ve started taking magnesium threonate (from Life Extension) I could sleep much better. My mental performance doesn’t seem to be excellent, but at least it’s not massively impaired by (moderate) sleep deprivation caused by sleep disturbances. And that’s certainly a solid basis for further improvements.

I also take magnesium citrate as baseline, but magnesium threonate has the advantage of passing the blood-brain barrier much more effectively. And it’s the central nervous system where I need the magnesium the most!

Is magnesium threonate a good nootropic? The jury may still be out on that, but I would recommend testing it out.

Addendum: Eating junk food still lets me sleep poorly. I really should stop doing that.

Thanks for the topic! I started taking nootropics, one pill a day for like a month now, but I am not sure about the effect, I do feel some changes in the way that I can focus more easily and work for longer hours. However, I am not sure if it’s placebo or does it really have the effect I noticed. Also, these pills I am taking are made by natural ingredients so, do you think natural could have more or less effect than chemicals?

I’d be interested in what nootropics you are taking, but I can also understand if you don’t want to go into details here.

Yes, that’s definitely a huge problem when testing any chemical substance for medical or other purposes. Because blinding (see is extremely difficult when doing “personal research”, one of the best approaches is alternating phases of taking the substance, and ceasing its intake. That way one cannot exclude a placebo effect (well, the placebo effect is always part of the package, even for substances that do have a physiological effect on their own), but it can be easier to determine whether taking the substance has a positive effect or not – regardless how much of the effect is a placebo response (a positive placebo response is certainly better than nothing).

Amino acids, minerals, and vitamins definitely can have serious effects, if one doesn’t have enough of them (or if one takes way too much of them). Synthetic chemicals usually have stronger effects than the previously mentioned classes, or plant extracts, because synthetic chemicals are typically optimised for having a really strong effect (which comes with the price of having a greater risk of strong negative side effects). However, that doesn’t mean that they always have a stronger effect, because you might not respond to such a substance properly.

In my experience the effects of superfoods and herbal extracts exist, but are pretty subtle. They are still worth trying.

Ok, I was asked to write down what to do about dopamine deficiency in this thread.

If the brain is dopamine deficient, of course it won’t work optimally. Motivation, feelings of gratification, the ability to concentrate, and memory are seriously impaired. Extreme dopamine deficiency occurs in Parkinson’s disease where the dopamine deficiency gets so severe that motor functions get impaired, so that the patients have problems with moving. More moderate dopamine deficiency can cause dopamine deficient depression (DDD), which I currently seem to suffer from. I guess dopamine deficiency lies behind anhedonia (both motivational and consummatory anhedoia). It may also have connections with ADD or ADHD.

These are my personal guesses, and they are mostly only founded in personal observations and hypotheses, which can be biased, so take this paragraph with a few grains of salt. I assume that moderate dopamine deficiency and the tendency for getting into periods of DDD, ADD, or ADHD is more pronounced for people with above average intelligence. And I suspect that the reason for that is a lack of adequate positive stimuli and feedback from their environment. The general social environment is normalized for average people with average intelligence, and it’s at least slightly inappropriate for people with blow or above average intelligence, because expectations and interests don’t align and communication is difficult. Lacking an appropriate environment the dopaminergic system becomes activated less, which perhaps causes some kind of neural atrophy that stabilizes the diminished activity of the dopaminergic system. Moving into a better stimulating environment can contribute to fixing that problem, but not immediately, because the neural atrophy needs to be reversed gradually, similar to muscular atrophy.

Dopamine synthesis pathway

It’s helpful to understand the biological dopamine synthesis pathway, which is explained very nicely in the following video:

L-phenylanaline -> L-tyrosine -> L-dopa -> dopamine -> noradrenalin -> adrenalin

So, it can start with L-phenylalanine that is converted into L-tyrosine in the liver. This conversion step is needed when starting with L-phenylalanine, because dopamine cannot be made from L-phenylalanine directly. Therefore, what is really required only is L-tyrosine, which gets converted into L-dopa within the brain. While neurotransmitters like dopamine cannot normally cross the blood brain carrier, L-tyrosine usually can do that, and L-dopa can pass the blood brain barrier, too. Anyway, L-tyrosine is easily available as supplement and is generally very safe to take in doses up to 1 g per day (or possibly more), while its use for DDD might require higher doses of up to 5 g per day. Folate is a required cofactor for the conversion of L-tyrosine into L-dopa, so a folate deficiency would sabotage the dopamine pathway. Finally, the conversion of L-dopa to dopamine requires vitamin B6 in the form of pyrodoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P) as cofactor, which can be deficient especially with conditions like pyroluria.

What I currently take that is

Daily doses:

  • 1000 mg L-tyrosine
  • 400 mcg folate from the Two-Per-Day tablets by Life Extension
  • 75 mg vitamin B6 in a mixed form from the Two-Per-Day tablets by Life Extension
  • 50 mg P5P
  • 2-10 g vitamin C (for fighting oxidative stress in general)
  • 24 mg astaxanthin (for fighting oxidative stress even in the brain)
  • 300 mg bupropion, a selective dopamine and noradrenalin reuptake inhibitor (it’s quite effective, but it’s not ideal to take it long-term, because many users – including myself – report (reversible) adaptation/tolerance effects)

This may be a rather extreme supplement and drug stack, so I’ll suggest starting with 500 mg L-tyrosine and the Two-Per-Day tablets from Life Extension (or some even better multimineral and multivitamin supplement, if available). Fighting oxidative stress helps preventing the oxidation of dopamine, which would render it useless.

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that is right. but there are two sides of the problem:

  1. the lack of intelligent input
  2. obstacles for intelligent output

it is not only that the average people are not intelligent enough for interesting topics, in addition to that i often experienced: “shut up! it scares me.” when i want to talk about future technologies. and while i solved a huge part of the input-problem with the internet, the output-problem remains.

although this thread is about drugs, i want to add a different solution for depression:

writing! i experienced phases of depression when i accumulated many thoughts that my usual environment would not request. to allow myself to write about everything i think and feel (this needs training!), no matter how provoking, subversive or radical it might be, really helps me to end phases of depression, because i produce both: output and input for me. so it is helpful for me, to read my own texts when i feel the lack of input, as well as i could end depression with writing.

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This week I have been trying out my first “stack”

It consists of:
Calcium 1g/15ug Vitamin D3
Half a 500mg L-Theanin
1.1g of Lethicin Granules (for ~200mg choline content)
One or Half of 100mg caffeine.

On the days this week when I’ve taken the full stack, I have been substantially more motivated and productive pursuing my life goals.
However, this seems to be a tradeoff.
I personally seem to consequently be exhausted earlier in the evening and sleeping for longer than otherwise.
I recommend trying this (choline source doesn’t need to be lecithin) if you prefer to have fewer, higher quality working hours, or if depressed.

This could be a temporary adaptation issue. I’d guess that it will disappear over time. I would only get worries, if this gets worse. That would indicate that your dosage is too high.

By the way: Since I’m on a multi-gram (2-3) dosage of L-tyrosine, I haven’t had any serious issues with negative moods, or lacking motivation. It’s probably still a good idea to start with a moderate dosage of 500 mg, and then go higher, if that doesn’t happen to suffice.

You should learn the systems. And this is the best way to change something in your life. Learn one skill every day during the month. And you will get real results. The same with supplements. Use it for a big period of time. It won’t help in 1 day. All about this I’ve found in this article about nootropics

that ist the problem. the skull watching me eyery morning throught the looking-glasses.

i used it since my descent. i don`t know if you call this a big period of time, but the results…

all of these supplements are way better for your health but i can only suggest one thing that take all the supplements by only get prescribed by doctor .

My personal experience is that i tried a lot of nootropics, almost all of them. But if you are healthy, you should use any of synthetic nootropics, you could get in bad health condition. Instead of that, try nootropics stacks made from natural sources. Of course, you must do your own analysis and read reviews. Healthy individuals shouldn’t use any synthetics nootropics, you can talk with your medical practitioner about this. Just read some alpha brain review and thinking to get one. It’s almost half positive and half negative reviews about it, but of course, need to trie by myself.

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